July 17, 2007
Roosevelt's Finest Hour
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1933 Inaugural Address, the first of his presidency, is ranked among the highest of all presidential inaugural speeches, along with John Kennedy’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you…” The best remembered part of FDR’s 1933 speech is the now immortal phrase, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear. . .is fear itself. . .
FDR’s address contains the word “we” twenty-five times, using confirming, pro-active phrases such as “we aim,” “we face,” “we are,” “we must,” and finally, “we humbly.”
He spoke of “our common difficulties” but reminded “we have still much to be thankful for.”
With this speech, Roosevelt lifted the spirit of a dejected nation mired in the Depression, never shrinking from reality when he remarked, “Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.” In his closing remarks, Roosevelt took charge when he called for a restoration, proclaiming, “This nation asks for action, and action now.”
Sadly, we Americans have not heard this quality of oratory, nor have we witnessed such political courage in many years.